preconception planning

10 Ways to Prep Your Body for Pregnancy

Preparing for Pregnancy

Most people have a good understanding of what you should and should not do during pregnancy. We know that you should eat a healthy diet, should not drink or smoke, and you should take your prenatal vitamins daily. But what about what you should do before you conceive? The time to start planning for baby is actually 3-6 months before you plan to conceive. This is the time to prepare your body and adopt healthy habits to create the most favorable environment for your baby-to-be. Here are 10 simple ways to get your body in gear for a healthy pregnancy.

  1. Review your diet: Are you a generally healthy eater or could your diet use some cleaning up? Give up unhealthy foods and eat a diet rich in whole grains, veggies, fruit and protein. Adopt a clean eating plan that eliminates processed foods and additives in favor of organic, GMO free, whole foods. 
  2. Schedule a preconception check-up: Meeting with your doctor or midwife before you plan to conceive is a great time to identify any areas of your health that may need to be addressed. Whether it’s adding a vitamin to your regimen to fill a deficiency, losing or gaining weight or getting more sleep, your care provider can help you come up with a plan to get your body healthy and prepped for baby. You will also want to make sure you are current on any vaccines that are necessary before pregnancy.
  3. Start taking a prenatal vitamin: Prenatal vitamins help ensure that you are getting the all vitamins and nutrients that your body needs for pregnancy and will fill any nutritional gaps that are left in your diet. Start your prenatal vitamin at least three months prior to trying to conceive to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida. 
  4. Give up drinking and any other unhealthy habits: Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and using recreational drugs are not only dangerous for the health of your future baby but can actually interfere with your ability to conceive. Treating your body as if you are pregnant while you are preparing to conceive is the safest and healthiest plan for you and your baby to be. You should also double check that any prescription medications you are taking are safe for pregnancy.
  5. Exercise: Establish a moderate exercise routine that you can continue once you become pregnant. Exercise during pregnancy will help ensure that you don’t gain excess weight and prevent complications like gestational diabetes. It will also aid in keeping your blood pressure low, give you energy and help combat prenatal depression and anxiety.
  6. Remove toxins from your environment: Choose non-toxic cleaning supplies, sulfate and paraben free hair and skincare products and BPA free plastics for your home and body. Avoid unnecessary pesticides and herbicides and other environmental toxins to ensure that your body is as healthy as possible. Exposure to toxins during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects and abnormalities. 
  7. Schedule a dental checkup: Pregnancy hormones can do a number on your teeth from periodontal disease to loose teeth and bleeding gums. It’s best to get any preexisting dental issues resolved before you get pregnant to ensure that your mouth is as healthy as possible going into pregnancy. 
  8. Cleanse your gut: Consider adding a probiotic to your daily regimen to ensure that you have a healthy digestive tract and a strong immune system. Probiotics may also help prevent vaginal infections during pregnancy that can lead to preterm labor and other maternal and fetal complications.
  9. Reduce your stress level: Although trying to conceive can sometimes be a stressful process, stress is actually counterproductive to your fertility. Stress causes your cortisol levels to rise which can consequently suppress ovulation. Incorporating stress reducing activities into your daily life before you begin trying to conceive will help ensure that you are physically and mentally prepared for pregnancy. There are many ways you can begin to make your mental and physical wellbeing a priority including but not limited to practicing yoga, getting more sleep, meditation, acupuncture, deep breathing, counseling, and massage. 
  10. Consider doing a pre-pregnancy detox: Detoxifying your body by cutting out meat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and dairy and increasing your water consumption can have a cleansing effect on your whole system. Consider also drinking a natural, detoxifying tea and doing a colon cleanse to further clean out your digestive tract.

Getting healthy before pregnancy is not only beneficial for your future babe but for you as well! Make it a team effort and get your partner involved by exercising together and coming up with a pregnancy-friendly diet plan for the whole family. At Health Foundations, we love to see couples 3-6 months before they plan to conceive to address any health concerns, review medical history and discuss your plans for a healthy pregnancy. Contact us for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We are here to support you and your family in your journey through pregnancy.

5 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant

If you are a healthy, fertile couple in your 20s, your odds of getting pregnant are looking rather rosy. If you wait a decade longer or have medical issues that may impact your reproductive system, things may get a little more complex. Still, unless you have been diagnosed with infertility, most women conceive within the first year of trying.

Here are 5 ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant:

1. Eat a Healthy Diet

There are two reasons you should consider focusing on your diet when you are trying to conceive. First, it is important that you are at a healthy weight. Being over or under weight can cause fertility issues. Experts recommend a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9 for your best chances of conceiving. Also, a diet made up of varied fresh, organic produce with lean meat and full-fat dairy may help you conceive by providing your body with all the nutrients it needs for your reproductive system to function normally.

2. Limit Caffeine

You may have to limit caffeine during pregnancy, depending on how much you are drinking, so start a healthy habit now. If you are having two cups of medium-strength coffee a day, you do not need to worry. However, if you are having the equivalent of five cups of coffee daily (or 500 milligrams of caffeine), it may be affecting your fertility. Remember that caffeine content can vary greatly by brand and brew, so be careful about getting too close to your limit. One cup of brewed Starbuck's coffee can have as much as 300 milligrams, so two cups would put you over the daily limit.

3. Have Sex During Your Fertile Window

You can only get pregnant when you are ovulating, so make sure you are having sex in the days leading up to and including ovulation day. Experts do not recommend having sex too often (it can reduce sperm quality and quantity) so try for every two to three days. If you do not want to worry about tracking ovulation, just have sex every two to three days during your cycle.

4. Be Smart About Lubrication

Many lubricants on the market are just plain bad for conception. Some contain spermicides that are meant to kill sperm. Others contain ingredients that may unintentionally kill sperm. Even saliva can be dangerous to sperm. To be safe, use a lube that was designed for trying to conceive or use a vegetable oil.

5. Limit Alcohol Consumption

Having a drink or two while you are trying to conceive is not a bad thing. It may reduce your inhibitions and loosen things up a bit – especially if you have been feeling stressed. Just try not to overdo it. And if you find that you are binge drinking often, get help. It may be impacting your fertility, and if you are addicted, it can certainly cause problems for your baby.

Author: Dr Zeenobiyah McGowan Ph.D., an expert on women's health and helping couples conceive naturally. Dr McGowan is a mother of one beautiful girl. She is editor-in-chief for Ovulationcalendar.com, also founded Impact Humanity, a charity which helps under privileged children get the basic necessities like food and education in Kenya.  http://www.ovulationcalendar.com/

 

Ten ways to naturally increase your fertility

meditationIn our external-oriented culture, we often seem to search for a magic pill, procedure, or treatment that will help solve our problems.  Sometimes we forget that the answer can be much more simple and that it is found right inside ourselves.  Our lifestyles exert a tremendous effect on myriad elements of our wellbeing, including our fertility.  While we don’t always have control over all the factors that affect our fertility, we can make lifestyle choices that support our ability to conceive new life. Here are ten lifestyle-oriented ways to support fertility.  The only potential side effects are reduced stress, improved relationships, and greater joy.

1. Talk it out

It's important to keep the channels of emotional expression open so that blockages in this area of your life do not lead to fertility “blocks”.  Talk about how you are feeling with someone you trust—express your fears, your frustrations, your disappointments, your hopes, your desires, and your dreams.  Keep connected to your emotions and your needs at this time.  Don’t be afraid to ask for support.  You don’t have to go through this experience alone.

 2. Sleep optimally

Sleep is paramount to fertility.  A diminished amount or quality of sleep has been shown to decrease fertility, so it’s important to make sure that you are well rested.  Sleeping in a completely dark room gets our circadian rhythms working optimally, setting ourselves up for the regenerative and restorative phases that support our hormones and ovulation.  Sleeping in silence and comfort are also key.  Lastly, it is important to get enough sleep.  Sleep needs vary by individual: some people need only 7-8 hours and others need 9 or 10.   Your body will tell you what you need if you really listen.

3. Practice yoga

Practicing yoga can encourage conception by:

•    Reducing stress •    Increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs •    Opening the pelvic and hip region •    Aligning the spine •    Releasing toxins •    Releasing emotional tension •    Regulating the endocrine system •    Elevating mood •    Relieving insomnia

 4. Get creative

Practicing what creativity looks like to you—perhaps gardening, cooking, dancing, drawing, painting, writing, singing, crafts, knitting, etc.—is a way to get creative energy flowing.  Those same creative forces are what support fertility.  Connecting to your creative side actually supports the creative act of conception.  It also can relieve stress and anxiety and increase enjoyment.

5. Eat optimally

A Harvard Medical Study found that the following dietary habits support fertility:

  • eating a mostly plant-based diet
  • consuming high-fat dairy instead of low-fat dairy
  • taking a prenatal vitamin
  • avoiding trans fats
  • choosing healthy monounsaturated fats
  • choosing low-glycemic foods

6. Enjoy sexual expression

When fertility comes to the forefront in a relationship, it can cause challenges in a couple’s sexual relationship.  A couple may become distanced from the recreational and relational aspects of sexual expression, favoring the procreative aspects.  It can be helpful to intentionally rebalance this and allow yourself the ability to enjoy sexual expression, not “just get a job done.”  This can relieve pressure and stress and increase calmness and joy, which can actually support your fertility.

7.  Be Still. Relax. Take deep breaths.

The link between stress and infertility is well recognized. The trouble is stress and cause infertility and then the stress of coping with fertility challenges can compound the problem by adding more stress.  Studies have shown that the diagnosis of infertility can create a “stress response” similar to that experienced by patients with terminal illnesses.  Physiologically, stress hormones, such as cortisol, ACTH, norepinephrine and epinephrine, are released into the bloodstream and force the body into “survival mode”.  In this state, vital functions are prioritized over reproductive function.  A constant surge of stress hormones over time interferes with hormonal balance and ovulation patterns.

Taking time daily to consciously counteract stress can change this physiological pattern.  This is a great time to develop a mediation practice, a yoga practice, or just start simple with a few deep calming breaths throughout the day.  Try to imagine your breath going all the way down into your lower abdomen as you inhale, and breathe out all the stress of the day on an exhale.

Other steps that can reduce stress are found in #s 8-10.

 8. Be kind to yourself

You and your body are doing the best you can.

 9.  Set boundaries so you don’t overextend yourself

10. Do things that make you happy

Health Foundations offers preconception planning services that can greatly support/increase your fertility.  Contact us to schedule an appointment today.

Preconception Planning

PPcoupleMost couples don’t think about preconception planning—yet it can make a world of difference in fostering a healthy pregnancy and birth.

Every couple benefits from addressing their overall health and wellness in preparation for pregnancy, even if they are not having fertility issues. This preparation supports a healthy and happy pregnancy and eases the transition through postpartum into parenthood.

preconceptionP1For all the gardeners out there, consider this metaphor: preconception planning is much like preparing/improving the soil. Creating a healthy environment for your growing darlings even before they are planted optimizes their chances of thriving -- sometimes in ways that later care doesn’t allow (e.g. water and sun; or, in our case, pregnancy care).

Health Foundations offers preconception planning services, including comprehensive visits to discuss your health and create an individualized plan that works for your family.

When should preconception planning begin?

Ideally, we love to see couples three to six months before they hope to conceive.  This gives us time to correct any nutritional deficiencies (such as low iron or Vitamin D), which can have a significant impact on the pregnancy.  Sperm live for approximately 3 months, so we want to get dad as healthy as possible before conception so that his contribution to the pregnancy is healthy and strong.  Eggs begin their maturation process around this time too; when, like sperm, they are most vulnerable to toxins, radiation, and nutritional deficiencies.

What does a preconception planning visit look like?

During a preconception visit, we will talk with you and your partner about your current health, lifestyle, diet, personal and family medical history, medications you are taking, work and home environments, past pregnancies, and you and your partner's desires and concerns about getting pregnant.  Here are some of the issues we will explore during your appointment:

  • General current health:
  • Blood Sample
    • We recommend women receive a pap and cultures during a well-woman visit (which Health Foundations can provide)
    • Visit a dentist to get a cleaning and any necessary work done prior to conception
    • Talk to your provider about current medications to make sure they are safe at this time
    • Discuss any history of hormonal birth control
    • Have diagnostic/lab tests for various issues that can impact pregnancy and maternal health (all offered at Health Foundations)
  • Diet/Weight
    • Love coupleWe can work with you to optimize your diet to ensure the greatest health prior to and during pregnancy
    • Eliminate caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs.
    • Drink plenty of water (aim for 8 glasses a day)
    • Weight: women 15% below their ideal weight may benefit from added pounds during pregnancy; women who are overweight, however, do not benefit from crash dieting prior to pregnancy, as this can deplete their health.  In either case, we can create a plan to create optimal health for you.
  • Lifestyle
    • Establish a consistent exercise pattern
    • Inventory your environment for chemical, heavy metal, and other toxic exposure (you may want to work with a professional on a detox plan)
    • Address emotional health and stress
  • Use of supplements
    • We recommend women begin prenatal vitamins at least three months prior to conception (folic acid is especially important to begin prior to conception to avoid neural tube defects in baby)
    • Omega-3 and DHA are also important
    • Nutritive herbal infusions such as alfalfa, nettles and red clover can support overall health
    • Vegans and vegetarians may want to begin B12 supplementation
    • Additional supplements may also be recommended based on the individual
  • Men’s health
    • Men should follow the same dietary and lifestyle recommendations as their partner
    • Men should also take a multi-vitamin for the months leading up to conception
  • Fertility awareness
    • PPchartingWe help couples understand their fertility so that they can maximize their chances of conceiving.
    • Taking Charge of your Fertility by Toni Weshler (book and website) and Fertility Friend (website) are great resources for understanding fertility awareness and how to chart your fertile periods each month
    • Inexpensive, reusable fertility test kits are available (less expensive than one-time ovulation tests)
  • Useful therapies
    • Acupuncture has proven benefits for women wanting to conceive
    • Massage, yoga, aromatherapy, and chiropractic can also help by reducing stress, balancing hormones, and overall physical wellness.
  • Having fun
    • Above all, we encourage couples to have FUN during this process!  It takes an average of 6 to 9 months to conceive—being stressed during this time will only make conception more difficult.  Plus, this is your time to really enjoy your partner and all those things that can be a bit more difficult to enjoy during pregnancy and into parenthood.